Homestead National Monument of America
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August Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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In August we celebrate the anniversary of the National Park Service, known as "Founders Day." This year marks the 103rd birthday of the National Park Service - for more than one hundred years, America's National Parks have preserved, protected, and interpreted the special places and stories that make us who we are as a Nation. We are proud to carry that tradition forward another year here at Homestead National Monument of America.

August will also see the final days of several of our summer programs, with our last two Kids in Parks programs and Heritage Campfire Programs coming August 3rd and August 10th. If you haven't had a chance to make it out for these programs this year, you still have time!

Finally, Homestead National Monument of America wishes a fond farewell to Chief Ranger Susan Cook, who has accepted a position at Niobrara National Scenic River in August. We'd like to dedicate this newsletter to Susan, and invite our readers to wish her well.  

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Farewell, Chief Ranger Susan Cook!

Chief Ranger Susan Cook, after 28 memorable years at Homestead National Monument of America, will be headed back "home" to the Sandhills as Niobrara National Scenic River's new Chief of Intepretation! 

Susan's entire 28 year career with the National Park Service has been spent right here at Homestead - where she started as a GS-04 Administrative Assistant, transferred into the Ranger Division, and worked her way up the ranks to become Chief Ranger! That speaks to the kind of person Susan is - it's rare in the National Park Service to rise so high at a single park. Her dedication, compassion, and drive helped build the Homestead we all know and love today.

You will be missed, Susan. Farewell and best wishes at Niobrara - they're lucky to have you!
A Message from the Friends of Homestead

Gage County's first annual giving day is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Big Give Gage is a 24-hour online event encouraging donations to support the local nonprofits and causes people care about -- including Friends of Homestead National Monument.

Forty-plus nonprofit organizations have already signed up to participate in Big Give Gage. These nonprofits represent nearly all facets of nonprofit work being done in Gage County and Southeast Nebraska.
The Friends of Homestead National Monument is participating with a project that hopes to raise enough money to provide six new research computers and monitors and a printer to be available at the Homestead National Monument Heritage Center. The equipment will give visitors the opportunity to research their family's Homestead Records and learn if they are descendants of homesteaders like former Nebraska Football Coach Tom Osborne.

To expand this research opportunity, Homestead National Monument of America staff will travel to the largest genealogist event in North America, RootsTech 20, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, to educate 25,000 attendees on the valuable information found in the Homestead Land-Entry Case Files.

Have you ever wondered if you have anything in common with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Director of Athletics Bill Moos, Pulitzer Prize writer Willa Cather, or Aviator Charles Lindbergh? Perhaps Singer Jewel Kilcher or Scientist and Inventor George Washington Carver? All of these men and women are descendants of homesteaders. Maybe you are a descendant of homesteaders? We hope you will join us in our cause to help everyone learn whether they have homesteaders in their family.

Donors may search nonprofits and give online at Donors can plan ahead and search for nonprofits now, but giving online will only be open from 12 a.m.-11:59 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2019.

We also hope you will spread the word about this giving opportunity -- especially through Facebook and other online channels. Homestead National Monument of America has friends around the world, and we want them all to know about Big Give Gage on Sept. 10!


 Artist-in-Residence Altman Studeny 


Welcome to our latest Artist-in-Residence, Altman Studeny. An artist and teacher in South Dakota, Altman seeks to explore how the cultural identity of the Plains continues to be shaped by its proximity to historical American visions of the Frontier. Whether focusing on questions of land use and environmental concerns or on those gestures made by human individuals in the region to carve out spaces of comfort and control against long odds, Studeny addresses ideas of Midwestern mythology and regional responsibility in cultural creation with a strong emphasis on collaborative art experiences. 
During his time at Homestead National Monument, Studeny will be immersing himself in the geographic and historical landscape of the Park to generate a variety of projects in which visitors will be encouraged to participate during his two weeks on site between July 31st and August 13th. A public program, "The Idea of Things More Than the Things Themselves" will be held on Sunday, August 11th at 2:00 p.m. Studeny will take visitors on a guided walk along the Park's interpretive trails. At the event's conclusion, a collaborative performance of language, movement, and sound will share the group's experience of listening to the Land to better understand our place in it. No art experience necessary! 

Studeny has worked as a resident with the South Dakota Arts Council since 2008 and holds an MFA from Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine, where his thesis work focused on the political role of art making in rural environments. 


One thing that came to mind in reading the story in the March 2019 Newsletter about women's suffrage occurring in most western states before the passage of the 19th Amendment making it universal in 1920, was that the same was true here in Alaska. When Alaska first became a Territory in 1912 (it was only a District before that), the very first law passed by the first Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1913 was the enfranchisement of women.  This is similar to what happened in Utah when it became a territory in 1868.  The Utah Territorial Legislature passed voting rights for women in 1869 also a year after becoming a Territory.  In both cases, this was a recognition of the importance of women in the settlement of the West.  Also, like in other parts of the West, women homesteaded in Alaska, but the actual percentage of men vs. women homesteaders in Alaska is illusive as no specific records were kept that can be easily tabulated today.  By just by looking at the first names of homesteaders here in Alaska (and that can be tricky for some names), I would guess that perhaps around 5% of Alaska's homesteaders were women.  

So, why not more?  Well, that could be another interesting bit of research but one relevant factor is limited access to land that could be homesteaded in many parts of Alaska.  Yet there is a parallel in that regard in Alaska to homesteading throughout the rest of the USA, too.  The majority of homestead claims filed and granted in the USA were not done in the earliest years of homesteading.  Instead, more homesteading was done in the later years of homesteading when there were more railroads and better wagon/car roads so people could get to their claims more easily.  But Alaska never had that many railroads or even many wagon/car roads (and we still don't today).  Also, complying with homestead requirements was especially difficult in many parts of Alaska for both men and women due to limited growing seasons, harsh weather in many areas, and unsuitability of soils for farming also in many areas.  Consequently, the total number of homesteads in Alaska by both men and women was relatively low, estimated at about 3,500.  And while we do have a few great examples of amazing women homesteaders in Alaska who cleared their land and made cabins largely by their own labor (and some hired it done, too), their stories are rare.  

My favorite one is of an amazing woman, Ethel Kavanaugh, who worked for the General Land Office here in Anchorage.  As part of her job, she answered questions by phone, mail, and in person about homestead requirements and where people could go to file homestead claims.  Becoming an expert on the subject, Mrs. Kavanaugh decided to quit her job in the early 1940s and go homesteading herself -- and did.  In 1942, she filed for a 160-acre homestead 35 miles from Homer, Alaska (south of Anchorage) and successfully proved up on her claim in 1956.  But there's more to this remarkable story.  Her daughter, Dorothy Clifton also came with her mother homesteading and then applied for her own homestead a few years later adjoining her mother's homestead.  Dorothy Clifton also successfully proved up and her 160-acre homestead was patented to her in 1958.  In 1951, Mrs. Kavanaugh wrote a book about her and her daughter's experiences homesteading, Wilderness Homesteaders, which included great pictures of the two women building their cabins.  

Another remarkable woman Alaska homesteader story I know about is of Mahala Ashley Dickerson (1912-1997), Alabama's first African-American female attorney.   She filed for a 160-acre homestead north of Anchorage in 1958, just two days after arriving in Alaska, and received patent to it in 1964 just at the time of the 9.2 magnitude Alaskan earthquake.  She knew Rosa Parks and once hosted Ms. Parks during her visit to Alaska.  Ms. Dickerson also wrote a fascinating book about her most amazing life, Delayed Justice For Sale (1991), which included an account of her homestead experience.  In all, more stories about women homesteaders in Alaska and elsewhere need to be researched and told.  They will reveal even more richness to the larger homestead story in the United States that remains very important even today for understanding our nation.

Happy Founder's Day! NPS turns 103!


The National Park Service celebrates Founder's Day on August 25th. The Organic Act of 1916, creating the National Park Service, was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson August 25, 1916. 

The new agency's mission as managers of national parks and monuments was clearly stated:  " conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

This year, the Park Service turns 103! Come celebrate with us, either at the monument itself, or at a special event at Haymarket Park in Lincoln on August 25th, with the Lincoln Saltdogs, where we will be celebrating on Sunday Family Funday, making cornhusk dolls and button toys from 3:45 to 5:00 p.m.!
You don't have to feel as disconnected as the first homesteaders did.

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Homestead National Monument of America
Upcoming Events

Special Events at Homestead National Monument of America:

April - August : Promontory Point Exhibit (Homestead Education Center)

July - September: Smoke Over Oklahoma Exhibit (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, August 3rd, 10 a.m.: Kids in Parks: Aliens?! (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, August 3rd, 7:00 p.m.: Summer Campfire Program: Stories from Nebraska's Agricultural History with Jody Lamp. Musical Performance by the Centenary Handbell Choir (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, August 10th, 10 a.m. Kids in Parks: Strangers in a Strange Land (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, August 10th, 4:00 - 11:00 p.m: 50th Summer Campfire Program: The Germans from Russia Homesteading Story with Sara Roberts. Musical Performance by the Windy River Dulcimers. (Homestead Education Center)

Sunday, August 25th, Founder's Day! 3:45 - 5:00 p.m.: Founder's Day Event at Haymarket Park in Lincoln 

Sunday, August 25th, 2:00 p.m.: Artist-in-Residence Program 

Saturday, August 31st, 10:00 - 4:00 p.m.: Living History Extravaganza Weekend

To learn more about events visit:

On Sunday of Labor Day weekend, September 1, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Education Center of Homestead National Monument of America, car enthusiasts can enjoy vehicles from the 1900s through the 1980s. You are invited to come see these automobiles, and if you have one you'd like to show off, bring it along! Registration and attendance, as always, is free! There will be people's choice awards for vehicles by the decade!

Often when people think of homesteading, they think of covered wagons, prairie schooners, vehicles and farm implements pulled by draft animals. But what many people don't realize, is that the peak era of homesteading didn't happen until the early 1900s - approximately 370,000 homesteaders proved up between 1901 and 1910, and another 439,000 proved up between 1911 and 1920!

The story of homesteading, and of the Homestead Act of 1862, is in many ways tied to the story of mechanization and industry. Homesteaders, much like anyone else, were eager to adopt any technology that might ease the burden and workload they faced! With the introduction of the Model T Ford in 1908, many of these homesteaders may well have been driving one of these new mass-produced cars! This Homestead Era car show celebrates the vehicles Americans drove from the 1900s through the end of the Homestead Era in the 1980s, while linking the automotive era and the homestead era.

Visit Homestead National Monument of America during the Labor Day Weekend and enjoy the National Homesteading Museum, the Farm Implements Exhibit, the historic Palmer-Epard Cabin, the 1872 one room school house (Freeman School), and over 3 miles of hiking trails across the oldest restored tallgrass prairie on the National Park Service.

Thank you to Gayle and Nancy Hanshaw along with the Friends of Homestead for their work with organizing and presenting the Homestead Era Car and Truck Show!

Homestead Trivia

What man closely associated with 
the Homestead Act of 1862 was born in August?

If you guessed Galusha Grow you are correct! 

He was elected Speaker in the 37th Congress (1861-1863) and presided over passage of the landmark Homestead Act of 1862-a version of a bill he authored that promised 160 acres of public land to settlers who agreed to farm it for a set period of years. He was born on Aug. 31, 1822. He is considered by historians to be a "Father of the Homestead Act!" 

The 37th Congress passed a series of major land laws, including the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land Grant Act,and the Pacific Railroad Act. 

Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Nebraska
This Solomon D. Butcher Photograph from 1886 depicts Jennie (Ruth), Lutie, Harriet
(Hattie) and Elizabeth Chrisman standing in front of a sod house. These Nebraska women represent the importance of the Homestead Act to women's suffrage - the Homestead Act is exceptional
because it contained gender-neutral language. This gender
neutrality would be a concept adopted by future state and territorial legislation in the West, in
large part, because of the population increases driven by the influx of people seeking land.

August 2019 marks the centennial of Nebraska women earning the vote! But how did it all unfold?

Senator J.N. Norton introduced House Roll No. 222 before the Nebraska state legislature in 1917. This law called for guaranteeing the right for women to vote for any election except for United States congressional representatives - a limited suffrage bill. The bill passed on April 21, 1917, at almost the same time as a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in Nebraska - which had received the full support of the Nebraska Women Suffrage Association. 

Just months afterward, the Nebraska Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage (NAOWS) petitioned Nebraska Secretary of State Charles W. Pool to have the law placed on the 1918 ballot, feeling they could defeat it at the ballot box. This organization, with female leadership and a large majority of female members, demonstrates the complexity of the battle for suffrage - many women felt that a woman's place was in the domestic realm, seeing suffrage as "anti-female, anti-family, and anti-American."

Edna Barkley, president of the Nebraska Women's Suffrage Association, questioned the legitimacy of the petition, doubting that NAOWS had actually received the 30,000 signatures it claimed. Barkley filed a lawsuit against Pool, asserting that the petition failed to meet requirements: that over ten thousand names were fraudulently recorded, and thus failed to meet the minimum of ten percent of the state's electorate for a referendum. During the ensuing court case, many took the stand to testify that they had signed under false pretenses. Often signatories were paid, and others were told that the petition was in favor of women's suffrage, or that it was to end prohibition. 

The Nebraska Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage knew Nebraskans were more upset about prohibition than the possibility of women's suffrage. Romanian immigrant Sam Popos fraudulently signed for his entire family after being told that the petition aimed to "bring the wet back." Other testimony mirrored this sentiment. When Bucur Mein testified before the court, he related that he was told the petition was to "bring the beer and wine back". He added that he was in favor of women's suffrage and would never have signed the referendum if he had known the truth. To this, the lawyer from the NAOWS responded, "Well, how are you going to get this beer and wine if women vote?"

Despite the influence of the Anti-Suffragists, the Anti-Prohibitionists, and the Germans who fought to suppress the reform-minded movements of the Progressive Era, the investigation uncovered extensive fraud. The Nebraska Supreme Court nullified the petition in 1919, guaranteeing limited suffrage until the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment nationwide the following year - Nebraska women joined their sisters across the homesteading states in achieving the vote!

Cultural Resources Corner: Annual Museum Inventory

It's that time again! Museum staff at Homestead National Monument of America including Museum Technician Amy Neumann and Historian Jon Fairchild, assisted by volunteers, complete the Annual Museum Inventory.

What is Annual Inventory, you ask?

Every year, Homestead National Monument of America conducts an inventory of its museum collection. The inventory has three parts:

1) A random sample of the collection objects;

2) An inventory of all of the objects on exhibit;

3) And a random sample of the accession records.

The lists for these objects are generated by the museum records database.

During the inventory, the inspectors make sure each listed object is in the correct location, that the condition of the object has not changed,  and the necessary documentation  (digital and physical) is accounted for and correct. The inventory allows the park to identify any problems and update inaccurate information that might not be noticed otherwise.

It can be quite a task -  Homestead National Monument of America has over 9,000 archaeological artifacts, over 6,700 historical objects, over 1,000 scientific specimens and over 928,000 archival documents or 580 linear feet. The collection size for Homestead National Monument of America is over 944,000 items!

Historical objects range from plows to modern trapping equipment from Alaskan homesteads.

The collection at Homestead National Monument of America is part of our Congressionally mandated mission in the legislation creating the monument dating back to 1936: 

" It shall be [the Secretary of the Interior's] duty to erect suitable buildings to be used as a museum in which shall be preserved literature applying to such settlement and agricultural implements used in bringing the western plains to its present high state of civilization, and to use the said tract of land for such other objects and purposes as in his judgement may perpetuate the history of the country mainly developed by the homestead law."
This museum, its archives, and its collections, are central to the fundamental mission of Homestead! The annual inspection is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the museum collection.